Academic Writing Tips
Whether you’re a college student or a freelancer that’s looking to specialize in a perpetually in-demand niche, academic writing presents a unique set of challenges. There are a number of strict rules for this type of formal writing, and most of them are unstated. So, where can you find academic writing tips that can help you walk the tightrope, conveying your ideas and your work to a wide audience in the most concise manner as possible?
We’ll, you’ve come to the right place! In this academic writing tips article we’ll take a look at some guidelines to make sure your academic writing is top-notch.
Academic Writing Tips: Following the Guidelines
Of all the academic writing tips in this article, this first one is perhaps the most important. With the volume of essays and assignments being read by professors every day, writers must be careful to follow every guideline in order to avoid being overlooked. If the work is specified as “double-spaced 12pt Times New Roman font, not exceeding 10 pages,” then that’s exactly what it needs to be.
If the work is intended to be for a scientific journal or to be included in a peer-reviewed publication, these organizations also have their own specifications listed either on their website, in the course syllabus, or in the published work itself. Much like the one of the more common mistakes writers make when submitting a query, failure to adhere to submission guidelines can result in immediate rejection.
It helps to have an example of what the publications or professor is looking for. So, if there are examples of acceptable work, then by all means review a few of them. Your goal is to mirror the work so your work is accepted in the same manner.
Academic Writing Tips: Clarity
“A theory that you can’t explain to a bartender is probably no damn good.”
-Ernest Rutherford, nuclear physicist and Nobel Prize recipient
Academic writing can be notoriously boring, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
It can be tempting to use big words and lengthy sentences to make your point. This is especially true if you want to display mastery of your chosen field—or simply get a better grade. The truth of the matter is that the more clear and unadorned your work is, the better received it will be. You’re essentially doing the reader a favor instead of having them dig for a meaning beneath showy language and esoteric thought.
Like the above quote, if you explained your ideas in your paper to a “common” person, would they be able to suss out the meaning? If so, you’ve accomplished your goal.
Academic Writing Tips: Create an Outline
You’ve probably heard some of these academic writing tips before, but this one is really important:
Create an outline before you begin writing.
An outline is the simplest way of explaining your point and structure. Devoid of coherent sentences and supporting images, does the work hold up in a logical fashion? Often, an outline exposes the holes in your thinking or the assumptions you’ve made unknowingly.
Unlike fiction or non-formal writing, you want to have a linear direction for your writing in order for your audience to understand. Starting with an outline, trace how your thesis leads from point to point, building a case for your conclusion to be taken seriously.
You may have heard that outlines act as the skeleton of your writing, with the subtopics and sentences serving as the meat. That may be true, but as you are writing the paper, the outline serves as a point of reference. Often, students lose their train of thought and meander on the subject matter. Thinking ahead and creating a list makes your job easier. Instead of plucking abstract concepts from your mind and hoping that they stick as your write, an outline forces you to adhere to a form. If you’ve crafted a workable outline, the paper writes itself!
As an added benefit, creating an outline also helps when you’re crafting an introduction/hypothesis and conclusion just by addressing all the elements beforehand. If you could only follow one of the academic writing tips listed in this article, creating an outline will make you the most efficient.
Academic Writing Tips: Stay on Point
Remember that your every sentence and thought included in your finished work should be clearly related to your main thesis. Avoid abstract concepts unless you can link them in a concise manner. Going off-topic or on tangents will degrade how others perceive your work, frustrating those who ultimately want to learn something from your work. Remember that the reason the reader cares to read your work is that they are curious about the main topic, not extraneous information. As an alternative, consider writing other papers that may supplement your work, or create a larger work for (i.e. your senior thesis, an ebook, etc.)
Academic Writing Tips: Avoid Redundancy
Professors of academic courses create a number of specifications to ensure that students display a depth of knowledge on a topic (see “Follow the Guidelines” above). Unfortunately, this approach backfires and fosters excessive writing in novice writers.
It is tempting to be redundant to fill up pages, saying the same thing in a number of ways that don’t vary from one another. In academia, however, if you’re looking to be taken seriously on your given topic, it is better to be concise than profligate.
In addition to these academic writing tips, writers can benefit from reading Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, especially the passages about omitting needless words, overused phrases, and employing a deliberate style. The book itself is an example of avoiding redundancy, with a length only spanning eighty pages or less.
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Keep these academic writing tips in mind when crafting your next paper. By following the set guidelines, presenting your work in a clear, focused, and non-repetitive manner, your ideas will shine through to your intended audience unimpeded by mistakes that amateur writers tend to make.